The State of Baseball and negotiating in good faith

Scherzer walking away; Photo by Andrew Lang for TalkNats

When Max Scherzer is your union player rep, you can expect an intensity level to be on high when it comes to his opinion. Restarting baseball during this COVID-19 crisis is complicated because of health concerns and MLB is renegotiating the plan that was agreed to almost two months ago with the player’s association in which they signed-off on a proration of salaries if/when baseball resumed based on fewer games played. Now, baseball (MLB) is looking to pay-out approximately 20-30 percent in salaries in total according to reports. Scherzer is challenging baseball owners to open up their books which is something they have never done publicly or for the player’s consumption. The owners did seem to offer to show their revenues but not their expenses. 

Baseball owners and players are at odds again in the public eye. Here is my quick take on it, the players want to play more games so they get two-thirds of their salaries back, but that would push the season into October and the post-season into November, and MLB wants a half season (82 games) so they can do what the NHL is doing with getting to the more lucrative postseason money where TV revenues are higher and paid through national TV deals. In fact, the NHL has canceled the remainder of their regular season to go straight to a 24-team postseason that was lengthy before because they had a 16-team format with four rounds. Baseball, like the NFL, currently, has a one-game Wild Card then goes to three rounds in the postseason. Baseball is proposing an increased playoff system — hence, more money. Okay, overall it is much less money because the chances are baseball will be played for the foreseeable future without paying fans, and that is the crux of MLB’s argument that their previous prorated salary deal with the union was based on fans in ballparks making this new negotiation about playing in empty ballparks with no fan revenue.

Baseball has always been about the marathon season and the grind of a 45-day preseason and a 162-game regular season schedule. Traditions are already being changed and compromised for the sake of money. Traditionalists want the season cancelled because this already would be an asterisk season. Owners are set to lose hundreds of millions (they claim) and billions combined if no season is played because like any business owner they still have bills to pay. Players have their own bills, but life is much different at the top of the food chain compared to the bottom. Younger players like Victor Robles have not made millions, yet, and he is part of a support system to his family back in the Dominican Republic. His viewpoint and perspective is probably much different from Scherzer who has earned over $200 million in his illustrious career. That will always be a divide within the union as the “haves” have more of a say over the “have nots”.

Obviously both sides will do some negotiations, and if I am right about this, the MLB owners need this season to happen more than the players. The owners are trying to cut their losses from 9-digit numbers to 8-digit numbers, and this may be felt for years to come — but both sides better be careful that they are not going to alienate fans over the bickering. Can baseball commissioner Rob Manfred see that side of things? Can he comprehend that attendance for regular season games was dropping even before COVID-19?

We can wax poetic about baseball being played for the love of the game because we are fans, but the owners and players are bickering about money and how each side wants a larger chunk of it. We now have to watch this like a cruel game of tug-of-war with a bag of money tied in the middle.

Speaking of money, in two weeks is the baseball amateur draft, and draftees are getting screwed too. They will see less money and fewer rounds and no real player development for this season. That has already been negotiated and approved between the owners and the union.

And for current minor leaguers, their season will probably be cancelled and many will be wondering how they will get their next meal on $400 a week or less if you look at what the Oakland A’s just did to their minor leaguers by saying they won’t pay them for the rest of the season. The San Francisco Giants just cut 25 players from their minor league rosters and sent them packing, and the Los Angeles Angels furloughed dozens of personnel. The people, yes, they are people, on the lowest rung of the ladder are getting hit the hardest, and yet life goes on for those who can afford a life of luxury and private chefs, maids, and mansions. So yes, many of the players live as well or better than many of the owners while the fate of our minor leaguers hang in the balance. The cost to pay an entire minor league system at $400 per week is not even a $1 million in total for the months of June through August.

This part does not have much to do with anything except for the crossed lines of perception and reality. How much would you have to pay to have celebrity Chef Ben come to your home and cook exotic pizza when Dominos $5.99 special just won’t do. Chef Ben’s average tip on a yacht was reportedly $26,000 and that did not include his booking fee. At least we know most of the star players of the Washington Nationals are being fed well. Maybe Chef Ben was there as a “friend” and being paid nothing and that is entirely possible, but perception is sometimes stronger than reality especially in the current economic and COVID-19 climate that is a reality to so many. It is probably a good time to lay low when you are negotiating a new deal and that goes for an employee at a Fortune 500 company as well as a player’s rep in baseball. Yet, we debate the owners versus the players in a new chapter in the history of baseball, and so it goes.


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Chef Ben 👨🏼‍🍳

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At the end of this, the fans will have to decide what they think about the end result. Will there be a 2020 baseball season? Time will tell as the negotiations and the war of words continue.


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